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Beginner Gardening Questions: Will Butterfly Bush Grow??

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Forum: Beginner Gardening QuestionsReplies: 12, Views: 168
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Canton (Football HOF, OH
(Zone 6a)

May 2, 2012
8:50 AM

Post #9107104

I have a butterfly bush that I bought in a late Summer- Early Fall 2011 sale. It was very spindly at about 12 inches in height and had actually grown a couple of short flower stems before going dormant. I cut it back in the very late Fall - I know, what was I thinking? Northeast Ohio (zone 6a) has had a very unseasonably warm Spring of 2012, and it started to grow some leaves. I covered it when I was aware that there was a frost warning, but now it's just died back. No new growth at all. I have no experience with butterfly bush. Will it grow eventually? Did I make a mistake by cutting it back in the Fall, or is our unusual Spring confusing it? Will it bounce back??

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United States
(Zone 9b)

May 18, 2012
5:14 PM

Post #9128931

I think Butterfly Bushes like warmer climates, plenty of sun.
If it goes down below 36 degrees they should get covered (usually a thin, light-colored, breathable cloth would work. Not sure they like constant wet soil during cold winter temperatures, and I think they only grow good for about 3 years. They may prefer sandier soil instead of dark moist soil. But then again, I'm no "expert".


United States
(Zone 9b)

May 18, 2012
5:21 PM

Post #9128941

Also not sure you would have had to cut it back real short, maybe should leave it at a height of 4 inches if you cut it back. The one in the photo definitely looks dead.
If you get new plants, try to plant them in a soil that is slightly more sandy, make sure it gets no less than 6-7 hours direct sun. And in winter only cover it if it gets 36 or below, with a sheet or small towel, but remove that sheet when temps go above 36 so it can get sun. Then hopefully by next spring it will start sprouting new leaves again.
KC Metro area, MO
(Zone 6a)

May 18, 2012
5:26 PM

Post #9128945

The butterfly bush won't need to be covered when frost threatens. Frost won't hurt the leaves much if at all. Now if it was getting ready to bloom then you would have to cover it. They are very hardy and very easy to take care of. You may have shocked it when you cut it back in the Fall. I always wait til Spring and just trim back the dead stuff til it reaches desired height. After that you can whack it all you want and it will spring back just fine.
Standish, MI

May 18, 2012
5:46 PM

Post #9128956


Here in MIchigan we have three Butterfly bush's. The first year we did cut the branches back in the fall and found that, that was a mistake. They did come back and we now only cut the dead out each year. The new spring growth comes out on the old branches. This year because of the early warm weather they leaved out early and then we started to get frost. On one of the plants the early leaves froze and it has had a rough time coming back. But that bush did eventually come back with new growth.

I would say that you should be patient and see if the bush starts to send out new growth. Each year, if you don't cut them back they should eventually grow to their full height.

I have heard that they require some type of protection in the winter but we have not covered ours for the last 6 years.


United States
(Zone 9b)

May 18, 2012
6:04 PM

Post #9128970

Yeah, sorry for my horrible suggestions & advice. Pepper23 and Gardenworm2 are right, listen to them.

I'm no longer a Northerner, so I forget what it's like.
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

May 18, 2012
7:45 PM

Post #9129057

I wouldn't necessarily give up on it yet--the above ground part does look dead, but it's possible there's still some life in the roots and it could send up new shoots. Plants will surprise you sometimes. It may not come back, but there's no harm in giving it a chance unless that's a really obvious spot in your yard where you can't have something looking dead for a little while as you wait and see.


United States
(Zone 9b)

May 18, 2012
9:28 PM

Post #9129138

I'm sorry, but, in the photo it looks like the soil is very soggy clay soil. The plant looks mushy & dead.
Plants that like 'quick-draining-soil' will croak fast in winter that are in clay soil or dark, rich soil.

I may be an 'a-hole', but I'm not a complete "dumb_ss" 100% of the time.

Also, those plants that like 'Sandy Soil' may need to be covered during winter temperatures of 36 or below. Because those particular flowers/plants like warmer climates. Just don't cut them back too low to the ground.

This info was brought to you, by an 'a-hole' who knows absolutely 'nothing'.

Take care.
Standish, MI

May 19, 2012
7:53 AM

Post #9129441

I don't think any body's impute should be discounted. We all have different experiences and the locations differ. In the winter months here I live close to Lake Huron [about 2 miles away]. If we drive 6 miles toward the center of the state the temperature may be as much as 6-10 degrees lower. What I experience here may not be the same as those gardeners closer to the center of the State. We can only give advice from what we experience. I try to make it a policy not to give any advice that I have not experienced in my years as a gardener. So impute from as may as possible gives a good range of advice.

To me the plant does look dead but not knowing what the root system is like I probably would give it a chance. One way to check is to look for a green cambium layer under the bark. If the root system is rotted you should be able to pull the plant out without any problem but being a newer planting the root system will not have much resistance any way.

So saying the above I would think that gleaning from the experiences of several gardeners helps all of us learn. So keep up the good growing and thanks for the posts. I really enjoy reading and learning what others have experienced in their gardens.
Poughkeepsie, NY
(Zone 6a)

May 20, 2012
5:08 AM

Post #9130265

To me it looks dead I'm sorry to say. I'm in Zone 6 and mine do great. I cut mine back in the late winter/early spring to one foot. Mine are really starting to grow at the moment. I would plant a new one if possible. GREAT plants!
Standish, MI

May 21, 2012
4:23 PM

Post #9132500

More people have told me that I should prune my butterfly bushes back each fall but I thought I would show what they look like early spring without fall pruning. As you can see they are growing next to the workshop but they seem to be doing fine. Ignore the weeds and landscaping that needs attention.

I would imagine that in an unprotected area they would probably freeze out if left uncovered and not pruned back. But by experimentation this has been the way I have grown them for the last few years.

This one in the picture has white flowers and was frost damaged early on and is just coming back so it has several leaves that are misshaped.

This message was edited May 21, 2012 7:24 PM

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United States
(Zone 9b)

May 23, 2012
11:06 PM

Post #9136156

Gardenworm2,... your ButterflyBush is huge! Wow!
My hat is off to you for growing them so tall :]

Really awesome.
Opp, AL
(Zone 8b)

May 24, 2012
11:16 AM

Post #9136705

I had many butterfly bushes for years in OH (5b) and you shouldn't trim them until they start growing in the spring. Sometimes the upper structure can still be alive, other years they die completely back, but trimming them in the fall can be fatal. The good thing about trimming them in the spring is that you can stick the cut pieces in the ground for more bushes. Drainage during winter is critical.

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